Californians seek relief as heatwave grips state for eighth day

People sit on Santa Monica pier amid an intense heat wave in southern California on Sept 4, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

SACRAMENTO, California - A man in a heat-stricken suburb of Los Angeles and a woman with two young kids in Pomona were among the Californians desperately seeking cool shelter as extreme temperatures baked the state Wednesday for an eighth straight day.

Temperatures were expected to top 42 deg C in Sacramento, the state capital, and other inland valleys, and broke 37.7 deg C around the Los Angeles area.

The agency that operates most of California's electrical grid urged consumers to conserve energy during the late afternoon and evening hours to avoid rolling blackouts, as the heatwave blanketed the drought-stricken region and crews fought multiple wildfires linked to the dry conditions.

Many people without air-conditioning or homes found some relief in cooling centres operated out of city hall conference rooms and community centres.

But untold numbers of homeless people lay on the streets in downtown Los Angeles, seeking whatever patches of shade they could find, said Mr Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, which helps people experiencing homelessness.

Mr Bales said he and his staff were walking the streets twice a day to hand out water bottles. Some people barely moved, he said, opening their eyes only to look at the volunteers and grasp a cool bottle.

About 1,000 people were sheltering at the Union Rescue Mission's three facilities in the area, he said.

The organisation also found cool places to stay for others, including two mothers with children and a man who called from suburban Simi Valley, where the temperature hit 37.7 deg C on Wednesday.

In Sacramento, hard-hit by the prolonged heatwave that started in Southern California and moved north over the Labour Day weekend, a high school football player collapsed.

A local chain of fitness centres cancelled classes, saying its air-conditioning could not keep up.

Temperatures are forecast to remain extreme in the coming days before residents get some relief during the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Evacuation orders remained in place in Riverside County east of Los Angeles and in Siskiyou County in the northernmost part of the state, abutting Oregon, as crews responded to deadly wildfires.

As of Wednesday morning, just 5 per cent of the Fairview Fire in Riverside was contained after scorching 2,830ha, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

On Tuesday, power prices soared to a two-year high and demand hit an all-time record as homes and businesses cranked up air-conditioners. REUTERS

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